Good Friday – The Virtue of Shame

Posted: March 30, 2018 in Uncategorized

  1. Elizabeth Izampuye says:

    Okay, I just have to say, that in my french class last year we studied this painting. I think it was designed just a bit differently (with the woman facing the other way and the portrait was a bit longer in that it showed her legs), but we talked about what may be going through this woman’s head. I believe we said that this woman is Mary Magdalen, the prostitute that Jesus saves from death by stoning. She is contemplating suicide in the painting, and the skull represents death. The light represents intelligence or wisdom (which may be what is keeping her back), the book represents law (of which she broke), or knowledge. I think there is a cross somewhere that represents redemption. All these conflicting emotions arise from the shame and guilt she probably feels.

    • That sounds fairly accurate. I regularly use this painting by Latour to teach Intellectual Traditions 3. Along the lines of Sontag, I don’t focus on the potential meaning of the objects in the painting. What interests me is the light, which is located within the scenario, creating a dramatic effect. This might be related to Brecht, whose play The Life of Galileo addressed how our notion of the cosmos might be a function of the position from which, and the instruments we use to observe and describe it.

  2. Kaden Plewe says:

    Made my Sunday night. Ty 🙏

  3. Carl Colby says:

    Typically I am not a fan of programmatic music, since in my opinion music should be absorbed and experienced based purely on the tonality, texture, timbre, performance aesthetic (if applicable), etc. I am somewhat familiar with this piece but did not realize its connection to visual art; I wonder if Couperin was directly inspired by this painting (referencing it regularly during the compositional process) or if the music is more so a reflection of the impression left on Couperin after his initial viewing of the painting. To me, the painting need not be present when listening to hear the affect of the dramatic light you describe in your comment.

    • Couperin did not stand aloof from his own cultural moment. This service would have been a standard part of the liturgical calendar. Most likely, Couperin did not write it himself of his own accord, but rather in response to a commission from a patron. We’ve frequently discussed the notion that an artistic expression is best when explored in its own right and judged in terms of its own innate capacities. Nevertheless, it’s interesting to think back to Greenberg’s assertion the music, while not the hegemonic medium of this era, it was nevertheless the superior medium – this despite the fact that it needed to conform to the conventions of the liturgy. Greenberg’s thought, akin to what he says about painting, was that composers, since their subject matter was dictated to them, were free of any need to worry about that. Instead, they could focus all their attention on the exploration of their craft. For this reason, the music of, say, Palestrina, a devout Christian, could deeply appeal to someone as marked non-Christian as Greenberg, and even anti-Christian, like Nietzsche.

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